2019 Preseason All-American Projections: Defensive Tackles

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2019 college football season WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises and the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2020 NFL Draft.

First-Team Defensive Tackles:

Derrick Brown, Auburn

After a rough start to the 2017 season, Auburn caught fire late in the year, including wins over the two teams that played for the National Championship, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers’ offense got a lot of attention, but their defense came up with big performances. and Brown was the leader on that side of the ball. In 2017, he totaled 56 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the year. Brown caused more is disruption than the numbers illustrate, and he created a lot of negative plays for the other team’s offense.

Brown then played well as a junior despite facing a bunch of double teams. He totaled 48 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble in 2018. If Brown had entered the 2019 NFL Draft, team sources think he would have been a top-10 pick. He could be even better in 2019 due to more experience and some quality ends around him, includng Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson.

Infinitely more important than my opinion, is what NFL scouts think. Here is how one advance scout summarized Brown heading into the 2018 season, “He’s a first-rounder all the way. Of the guys in the southeast the only one I would put above him entering the season is Raekwon Davis – Alabama. I think Brown is better than the Clemson guys – Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Brown can play the three-[technique] or the one-technique. He has real strength to him and can push the pocket in the pass rush.”

Raekwon Davis, Alabama

Davis had only four tackles and a sack in backup duty as a freshman. Thus, many didn’t see his breakout 2017 campaign as the replacement for Jonathan Allen. The sophomore formed a lethal interior with Da’Ron Payne and was Alabama’s most consistent pass-rusher. Davis totaled 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, 69 tackles and one interception for the season, plus came up with some big performances in the playoff games to help Alabama win another National Championship.

As a junior, Davis was a tremendous run defender for the Crimson Tide, totaling 55 tackles with 5.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks on the year. His pass-rushing numbers fell in 2018 because Quinnen Williams was Alabama’s feature rusher on the inside, but with Williams in the NFL, I could see Davis bouncing back with a bigger sack totals as a senior. As a third-year starter, Davis has a lot of experience, and he has good talent around him. Thus, I think Davis could be in store for a big senior year and earn a lot of postseason honors.

Second-Team Defensive Tackles:

Rashard Lawrence, LSU

Lawrence got off to a good start in 2018, turning in statement game against Auburn to help LSU pull off a tough road upset. When he is playing his best, Lawrence is a disruptor behind the line of scrimmage, displaying the speed and athleticism to fire into the backfield and wreck plays. As a junior, Lawrence flashed speed, athleticism and strength to push through blockers, but he was also not consistent enough.

During 2018, Lawrence totaled 54 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, four sacks and three passes batted, but he was more disruptive than the numbers indicate. He closed out the season with an excellent Fiesta Bowl performance. Lawrence could be even better in 2019 and earn a lot of accolades at the end of the year.

Robert Windsor, Penn State

In 2018, Windsor was a solid defender for Penn State and showed some interior pass-rushing skills with 7.5 sacks. He also had 11 tackles for a loss, 39 tackles and two forced fumbles. With Yetur Gross-Matos drawing attention on the edge in 2019, Windsor could benefit with some good blocking looks. Windsor (6-4, 289) is on the light side for the NFL, but that could help to produce more sack numbers than some other NFL prospects who are larger nose tackles. Thus, Windsor could have an edge over them for earning All-American honors.

Third-Team Defensive Tackles:

Tedarrell Slaton, Florida

Slayton did not produce a big stat line for the Gators in 2018, but the big nose tackle caused a lot of disruption and plugged a lot of gaps at the point of attack. He totaled 21 tackles with two for a loss on the year. Team sources have remarked that Slaton jumped out at them and was impossible to ignore while grading the Florida Gators’ prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. Slaton may not produce as large of a stat line as Derrick Brown or Raekwon Davis, which I think could cause him to be more of a candidate to be a Second- or Third-Team All-American.

Naquan Jones, Michigan State

Entering the 2018 season, the Michigan State defensive tackle who seemed to be the program’s top interior lineman was Raequan Williams, but Jones, then a sophomore, was the team’s top interior defender. In 2018, Jones totaled 26 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one pass batted, and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-4, 339-pounder is a heavy nose tackle. and entering his junior year. some teams have him with the potential to be selected in the top half of the 2020 NFL Draft, so he could be in store for a big year with a lot of postseason honors.

Honorable Mentions: Florida State’s Marvin Wilson, Michigan State’s Raequan Williams, Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore, Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, Missouri’s Jordan Eilliott and Alabama’s LaBryan Ray.

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